The Crusader (6-12-63)
By Danny Feldstein
During the Fall of 1951, at the finals of the American Legion National Convention contest at Miami, Fla., the Caballeros of Hawthorne Post #199, New Jersey, achieved their first national championship, beating the then-champion New York Skyliners.
At the 1962 convention in Las Vegas, the Caballeros again won the national title. In the intervening conventions, they won six additional national titles. During these past twelve years, a total of eight national titles, the last five of them in a row, were won by that corps. The Caballeros have not lost a single contest to any other corps since early in the 1961 contest season.
This record of fantastic success, never before surpassed or even equalled, attests to the amazing story of the greatest senior corps of all time. No longer can any doubt remain that the Caballeros have been and continue to be a senior drum corps unparalleled in all of drum corps annals.
Look at the record! In all of these many years, dating back to a time when no currently marching member of a junior corps was more than eight years old, the Caballeros have never had a season during which they failed to win many more contests than they've lost. This past year, Hawthorne accomplished the astounding feat of winning every contest, competing weekly against the cream of the nation's seniors. In prior years, Hawthorne averaged only one or two losses yearly, usually, by the smallest of margins, compared to 15 or 20 decisive victories each year.
Just as the other baseball teams in the American League consistantly throw their best pitchers into games against the New York Yankees, and exert their most determined efforts against the top team in all baseball, so do other senior corps go all out in an effort to dethrone the World Champions of the senior drum corps. These efforts were not successful in the past. Little prospect exists for drastic and sudden reversals of form during the coming season.
Despite the usual midwinter and early spring rosy predictions and perhaps more than just a little bit of wishful thinking on the part of their perennial rivals, the Caballeros each and every year meet and defeat every challenge thrown at them, and continue to roll over all opposition. Comparatively few are the contests in which room exists for doubt as to their complete supremacy. In many contests their margin of victory is two or three full points; at times even more!
Nor have there been any indications, in the past year or two, that the gap is being closed or that the champions are losing or will lose their touch. On the contrary, their stranglehold on the titles and victories in important invitational competitions becomes even more decisive, as they rise to even more spectacular heights of fame and glory.
In all fairness to their rivals, it must be said that they try their best year after year, and that for the most part other corpsmen do extend to the Caballeros full credit for continuing to do such fine jobs. Most other senior corpsmen accept their defeats in good grace, recognizing and acknowledging that in losing to Hawthorne they are losing to the very best. In so doing, these other corps and the members deserve much credit and admiration for the sportsmanship and honesty they display. They are always both there pitching, putting on great shows in their own right, and never allowing themselves to become consumed with petty jealousy or childish bitterness.
Very unfortunately, and also very unfairly, there still exists a small but noisy scattering of corpsmen who refuse, despite the overwhelming weight of facts, to give Hawthorne the credit that properly is due them. Each year, one hears or reads of charges that "Hawthorne is dull", "their music never changes", "they don't do a thing out there", "their uniforms hide a lot of drill mistakes", and "Hawthorne's drill is very repetitious".
If such things really are so, and other corpsmen are correct in their charges, then how do they explain Hawthorne's record over a period of so many years? Why do such empty protests and foolish comments continue? When, if ever, will these would-be critics break down and acknowledge, frankly and honestly, that this corps has an enormous amount of quality and consistancy, plus a never-failing determination to do their best and to be the best???? Why must they deny, regardless of every single indication to the contrary, that Hawthorne has an intelligently planned and very well executed contest presentation, a program with an extremely high degree of spectator interest and appeal?
During recent years, this reporter recalls much fuss being made by some corpsmen (mostly from other corps that consistantly lose to Hawthorne, naturally!) , about Hawthorne's so-called "bongo" drums. Admittedly, this was sometimes done in a spirit of sincere doubt and concern as to whether or not they constituted true drum corps instruments. No fault can be found with that attitude.
However, this was not always the case by any means; objections often were voiced in a very derisive and belittling mannor, as though to ridicule a new development the other guy thought of first. There can be no justification for that kind of attitude.
Completely overlooked at that time was the fact that such instrumentation does contribute in major degree to spectator interest and popular appeal. Also ignored were other facts, such as this instrumentation being in complete harmony with Hawthorne's traditional Latin theme, and that the Caballeros showed originality and imagination in adopting the use of their novel drum effects.
It can be added that this was done most effectively, and did not detract from their basically military type of field presentation. Significantly, few if any spectators or junior corpsmen were heard to object. Mostly, heated objections seemed to come from other senior corpsmen. Again, let me stress that most corpsmen have always kept an open mind and a fair viewpoint in these matters, and it is very unfortunate that a small minority do not.
Fortunately for the continued progress and developement of drum corps, however, objections imaginative and worthwhile innovations and improvements in contest repertoires rarely if ever succeed in blocking the eventual adoption and universal acceptance of such changes. If I recall correctly, many corpsmen were up in arms over the proposed use of the contra-bass bugle, yet this instrument has now proven its value and gained acceptance, and this furor and indignation has died down as a result.
Hawthorne's continued success over the major part of two decades is no accident, nor can it be attributed to pure luck. It is the result of careful planning, intelligent and devoted leadership, and a corps membership that utilizes hard work, strict self-discipline, and complete cooperation to the utmost degree.
Hawthorne chooses their new members carefully and selectively. This corps has a firmly established tradition of deep pride in their performance and in the conduct and bearing of its members. Corpsmen who join the Caballeros are carefully indoctrinated in the background, history, and habits of the corps and they blend into this picture and become a part of it.
The all-important nucleus of the corps is composed of a group of mature, sensible, and farsighted men who guide Hawthorne's destinies and every activity. They never fail in their obligation to oversee and to continue the fine traditions and high ambitions that make the Caballeros so great and enable them to continue their superiority.
As a result, Hawthorne has become a dynasty that is now self-perpetuating. Junior corpsmen from the many fine junior corps in New Jersey, New York, and nearby Pennsylvania, boys who have never known the year when Hawthorne wasn't great, and who have admired and loved them since their earliest teenage years, are eager to join Hawthorne when they reach 21.
Furthermore, they are keenly aware that the Caballeros are a serious minded and hard working organization that puts business first and the fun afterward, when their work is done. That is the reason why Hawthorne seems to attract the highest quality and most desireable types of fine young men, those who will best fit into this sort of program and environment.
Almost inconceivable is the strange fact that Hawthorne never suffers a real year-off. As hard as it is to reach the top, it becomes even more difficult to remain there, year after year. Eventually a point is reached where no new worlds remain to be conquered. You have won everything there is to win; only one direction is left in which you can go and that is down. Human nature being what it is , this is a cycle almost impossible to overcome.
Perhaps Hawthorne's greatest claim to everlasting fame is that they have never yet permitted this to happen to them. Their incentive never dwindles nor does the high quality of their entire operation ever wane. The training and spirit of their membership is such that sacrificies , hard work, and complete devotion to the task at hand is always present when they are needed. Such a combination is very hard to beat!!
Quite obviously, some people have grown weary of seeing Hawthorne win contest after contest, year after year, seemingly without end. That, too, is an understandable reaction, and this, rather than any legitimate complaint, is the basis for the occassional antagonistic reactions to Hawthorne's presentation on the field.
What these people fail to realize is that the fault doesn't lie with Hawthorne, but rather with the relative shortcomings of those of their rivals who would like to beat them. Before anyone thinks this statement unfair, let them first ask themselves one simple question: which corps , alone of all the nation's seniors, has been able to produce, year after year, a smoothly run and very successful corps of continuous championship calibre, and in so doing has successfully stood up to the test of time???
But the point of all this is that there is no such thing as a magic formula for victory. It isn't done with mirrors, nor can it be done with wishful thinking. What the Caballeros have accomplished in past years and continue to do now, can be done by others. The basic requirement is to devote onesself heart and soul, regardless of the time it takes or of the many sacrifices, to a tried and proven type of operation.
Any less dedication and sincerity will doom all efforts to comntinued failure, unless some day in either the near or the distant future the ravages of age and time cause Hawthorne to lose their winning combination and result in their falling back to a lower level.
The opportunity is always there for any other senior corps to rise to the challenge and take over leadership of the seniors. However, their work is cut out for them, because Hawthorne isn't the type of organization that is likely to become complacent, careless, or sloppy. Such faults don't fit into their tradition, a proud and noble heritage that has earned for the Hawthorne Caballeros the right to call themselves the number one senior corps in the entire history of drum and bugle corps.